During the dedication of our new building, we found inspiration for the current school year from the dedication of Solomon’s temple so long ago. That story, found in 2 Chronicles 6, included a rehearsal of all that God had done for the children of Israel to provide for this new place of worship. After the dedication, a few people shared with me how inspired they were with our story about God’s provision for our addition. Several commented “you should write that down” so that those who follow in our path will know. Being encouraged by an earlier piece of the story of the temple found in 1 Chronicles 29, I would love to share with you all, the best I can, how God moved in beautiful ways to make the classrooms we now enjoy, a reality. “Then the family leaders, the leaders of the tribes of Israel, the generals and captains of the army, and the king’s administrative officers all gave willingly for the construction of the Temple of God” (2 Chronicles 29: 6-7a). This is also the story of God’s school known as Johnstown Christian School. Many faithful supporters came together to make the building possible.
I hope that one day soon we will have an area in our school that will commemorate those who gave to this project and in that we will honor people by name. But for this story, I want to respect our donors who wish to remain anonymous and not add names. David reminded the people through his prayer that “everything we have has come from you (God), and we give only what you (God) first gave us” (1 Chronicles 29: 14). Ultimately, all that we have comes from the hand of God, but we are certainly grateful for those who willingly shared from the provision He has made for them.
A few years ago, it became clear to the administrative team and the school board that we had to do something to update our instructional space if we hoped to remain relevant in the education needed for the 21st century. It seemed an impossible dream. But God had provided a friend with means who had come to know our school and appreciate our ministry to children and their families. Out of that friendship came the first indescribable gift that set us on a path of believing that God could do what seemed impossible to us. And so, we set ourselves on a path of change, asking Dean Yoder, a graduate and longtime patron and friend to manage the project “the JCS way.” That means, we needed to build appropriate space, but it need not be extravagant. Initially, improvements were made that were necessary before a building could be added. The bus lane was moved and the floor level of a portion of the upstairs was lowered. And all along the way, Dean found businesses that would work with us to keep our costs low, often selling products at cost, or donating part of the needed supplies. We broke ground in June of 2014 and the main structure was erected during that summer using the initial gift we received in combination with some monies that had been acquired from a previous capital project effort. Meanwhile, we began to look for additional means of funding so that the full project could be completed. During this time, some amazing stories of faith and answers emerged. Dean was able to locate used lockers that would outfit the entire addition, and a parent and long-time friend stepped up and bought those for us. We had given up on being able to air condition the addition because of the large cost, when a chance encounter between Dean and a building manager of another Christian school resulted in the opportunity to purchase nearly new units that they had uninstalled at their school for about 15% of the cost of new units. Another parent heard that story, and her family provided the funds to purchase those units. Another patron and friend stepped up to fund a drainage pond that was needed to satisfy environmental regulations. An elevator was needed to make our building accessible to everyone and a local company owned and managed by believers offered us a brand new elevator at half the expected cost. And at a point when we were out of money, the construction had stopped but we needed to move on to building unexciting things like restrooms, another family who are longtime friends and donors provided a large sum that allowed our contractors to get back to work. And the interior of those restrooms were completed at little cost using materials that had been donated to a local agency by the Home Depot for use by non-profits.
During this project, JCS entered the arena of grant writing in order to continue funding the completion details of the building. A large grant was received from the Community Initiatives Fund of the Community Foundation for the Alleghenies that allowed us to complete and furnish the media room as well as help with the infrastructure needed for the technology to power that room. The CEO of an international company based in our township visited our facility to see the project underway and his company supplied enough funds to complete the science classroom. And added to all of these were many faithful friends who together provided over $55,000 to the ongoing work.
A miracle was certainly underway, and we were able to occupy our new building in February of 2016. But we still only had a shell of a science lab with no furnishings and the dream of renovated space for the arts in the oldest section of our school. Enter again that lovely lady whose donation began it all when at Christmas of 2015 she offered us another substantial donation that has allowed us to complete our science lab and renovate space for the visual arts as well as instrumental and vocal music. What a gift! Ms. Lloyd finally has a beautiful music room to match the beautiful music made there, Ms. Hostetter is no longer holding band practice in the locker room, and Mrs. Yacko has windows in her art room! And we have a conference room for meetings for the first time in our history! Our staff and students are overwhelmed with what God has done in these last three years. Our educational space is essentially brand new! We are prepared for 21st century learning. But there are still dreams for a completed wood shop so our students who love hands-on learning have more educational space and for soundproofing for our music technology room so that our very talented students can experiment with recording and mixing music. And there is still the gym…. but God is great and He has shown us that He will care for us at JCS. I look forward to more stories to come.
Dr. Kathy Keafer, Administrator